Hong Kong Disneyland, although reputed to be the smallest Disneyland theme park in the world is sure to offer enjoyment and thrills for the young and young at heart.
HKD caters to many different tastes, as its offerings vary from thrilling, to picturesque, to downright amazing.
Brochures are available at the front entrance in either English or Chinese together with a map of the area to help guests navigate through the four major divisions of the park – Main Street, Adventureland, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
For those who prefer to take in a free and easy lay of the land, a choice of the Omnibus, the Paddywagon, Fantasyland train or Main Street taxi, is available to take guests to their desired location.
Main Street is the best stop for those who want to take in the view as the shops abound, together with a lot of photo opportunities. Main Street is best known as the venue for the Disney Parade where a motley crew of Disneyland characters parade on board colorful floats created to cater to the maximum enjoyment of the guests.
Adventureland features attractions such a Tarzan’s Treehouse, where the guests’ only mode of transport are wooden rafts; the Jungle River Cruise, where one can embark on a safari-like adventure on a boat with a short guided tour available in English, Chinese, and Portuguese; and the Liki Tiki, where kids and adults beat jungle tunes to the rhythm of authentic native drums in a park surrounded by ethnic icons and designs.
A visit to Fantasyland will not be complete without a trip to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle which is sure to make guests believe in the magic of Disney. Mickey’s PhilharMagic, on the other hand, is a 4D journey with Mickey, Donald and an assortment of other Disney characters, which makes the viewers experience the adventure as the characters experience it. One surprise after the other springs up at the most unexpected moment in the state-of-the-art cinema, which will surely delight the viewers. Some of the other kiddie rides featured in Fantasyland are Dumbo’s Flying Elephant, the Cinderella Carousel located in the Castle, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and another 4D presentation: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, where viewers get to join Pooh on a storybook journey through the Hundred Acre Wood.
Last but not the least is Tomorrowland, where the main star is none other than Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear. The Space Mountain is the main attraction in this part of the park, and it is also the most popular and thrilling offering of the HKD. The coaster, unlike any other, is located within the confines of a large dome. Except for a few flashes of light in the beginning and the end of the ride, the journey is completed with surrounding darkness, while the rider spins aboard the coaster for a couple of times. As the ride lengthens, the speed of the coaster increases until it finally slows to a finish and a bunch of dizzy riders emerge. The ride, although not as exciting or thrilling as larger roller coasters with loops, will greatly be appreciated by kids. The Orbitron lets guests pilot their own saucer high above Tomorrowland, while Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters is highly recommended for arcade aficionados as riders board a cab complete with controls and try to shoot symbols of Emperor Zurg with laser gun for corresponding points.
Visitors should also not miss Disney’s 30-minute stage shows such as the Golden Mickey (Fantasyland) and Festival of the Lion King (Theater of the Wild, Adventureland), which will surely impress the audiences with effects, flawless execution and choreography. The only drawback to the Golden Mickey presentation is that most of the script, aside from the song numbers are delivered in Cantonese, whereas the Festival of the Lion King is done in 95 percent English, much to the delight and convenience of the tourists.
Before each day draws to a close, Disney offers a 10-minute fireworks display, similar to those seen on television. The fireworks, accompanied by a medley of popular Disney tunes such as Aladdin’s A Whole New World, and the Cantonese theme song of HKD provides the audience with an aura of magic as one fireworks presentation is launched after the other, in a blend of beauty and enchantment — memories of which will last a lifetime.
As the aura in Disney is laced with magic, the ambience in Ocean Park is quite different. Reputed to be eight times bigger than Disneyland, the layout of the park is airier, which provides guests with more room to explore. The park is divided into the lowlands and the headlands. The Lowlands is the tamer part of the park as it houses viewing features such as the Goldfish Pagoda, the Amazing Birds Theater Show, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Giant Panda Habitat, Dinosaurs Now and Then, and the Dolphin University, where dolphins are trained to perform.
Connecting the two parts are the cable cars, which ferries visitors to the Headlands across 1.4 kilometers of mountains, which is no small feat for hikers. The cable ride takes approximately six minutes, or a lifetime for riders with a fear of heights.
After the excruciating, or exciting ride — depending on the rider’s orientation, the Headlands offers due compensation in terms of a picturesque view of the Pacific, even as it provides guests with the bird’s eye view of Hong Kong. However, the best place to take pictures is from atop the Ocean Park Tower, a viewing area designed to elevate guests to the top of the tower and give them a complete look at the surrounding areas, even as it slowly rotates to help guests appreciate the park and its environs at their own pace.
Because Ocean Park is relatively bigger than Disney, guests should be prepared to hike for longer periods of time, a factor which the designer of the park has seriously considered. Therefore, there are several intervals like food kiosks and viewing areas such as the Atoll Reef and the Shark Aquarium situated in the middle of the hiking trails on the way to the bigger rides.
Atoll Reef is a sanctuary for various species of fish, it is a three-storey-high aquarium for all types of marine wildlife, ranging from your regular milkfish to the more exotic breeds of the large crustaceans. Janitor fishes as large as one’s thigh keep things clear in the bottom of the mob.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Pier is a sanctuary for seals who gorge themselves daily from fish that tourists feed them for a fee. The large pool which they call home doubles as an aquarium available for viewing at a lower floor.
Ocean Park boasts of more thrilling rides than Disney as it caters to a different market. There is the Raging River, similar to the Wild River and Log Jam in the Philippines. There is also The Dragon, a double loop roller coaster, not for the faint hearted. Ocean Park also offers its own version of Anchors Away, called Crazy Galleon.
The Headlands is also home to the Space Wheel, where riders go on individual compartments and are spun around until they are 90 degrees from their original position, growing faster with each spin. The Eagle on the other hand, is similar to the space wheel but the positions of the compartment remain the same – that is until the ride begins where, even as the main oval that holds the compartments spin, so does the individual compartment. But the most exciting ride that the park offers is The Abyss, where riders are strapped to a large pole and are elevated 20 stories high from the ground after which, they are headed for a quick drop and several succeeding bounces until their ordeal is over.
While Disney offers an assortment of shows to choose from, Ocean Park features its most popular presentation—the Dolphin and Seals Show which hundreds of people eagerly await. This show features dolphins, seals and their trainers as they perform tricks and interact with selected members of the audience.
Although the two parks cater to different audiences, they sport their own individual charms which appeal to a wide range of guests. Visiting both parks is definitely integral to a complete tour of Hong Kong, and no tourist should go home without experiencing these thrilling wonders.